How Is a Hotel Room Like a Book Author Web Site?

hotel-roomStaying at the Hyatt near Disneyland I suddenly realized how similar the requirements for a customer-friendly hotel room are to the requirements for an easy-to-navigate Web site.

Here are just a few examples of the similarities:

Hotel: The decaffeinated coffee packets in the room had very small white type on silver background – almost impossible to read no matter how I held the packet to the light.

Web site: Many people have Web site type that is too small to read comfortably.  When I pointed this out to someone with a new Web site, her reply to me was: “Standard Web site type is 11 or 12 point and this is 11 point.”

So what?  If I can’t read the type on a Web site or the instructions on a hotel coffee packet, it doesn’t make any difference that this is standard-size type or that the designer of the packet thought white type on a silver background is cool-looking.

Hotel: I looked everywhere on the large bathroom counter top for the tissue box.  When I found none, I concluded that the hotel was saving money by eliminating the tissues.  The next day I discovered that the small tissue box was on the top of the toilet tank.  As it was outside my area of expectation, I did not see it.

Web site: I have often been on Web sites and interested in buying the book offered on the site or another product offered on the site and have been unable to find the BUY button.  In one case the book author was emailed to ask where the buy button was.  He admitted that he had only included a tiny button in an unlikely place on the site.  Enough said about this.

Hotel: The shampoo bottle next to the conditioner bottle had white type on a clear plastic bottle of gold-colored liquid.  No way could I read this – especially as I didn’t have my glasses on in the shower.  So which bottle was which?

Web site: This may seem the same problem as in the first example, except in that case I was talking type size and in this case I want to talk reverse type, the term for having white type on a dark background.  Yes, this is readable as a headline in large type.  But you never, ever what to use reverse type for large blocks of type, particularly on the Web when it is so easy to click away from difficult-to-read text.

No matter how cool you think reverse type looks, get rid of it.  The purpose of an effective Web site is NOT to look cool.  The purpose is to make it as easy as possible for people to say yes to the brand, book or business you are promoting on that site.

Hotel: The only soap in the bathroom was scented, which affected my allergies.  Why not have no-scent soap and be user-friendly for everyone?

Web site: All the other “little things” that make a site difficult to navigate, including the little details that are missing.  (See my article “Sometimes it’s the smallest detail – or the lack thereof – that can really trip up your Web site.”)

If there’s anyone from Hyatt or other hotel chains reading this, I hope you’ll now look around your hotel rooms with the perspective of the guest.  Just because the coffee packets have a cool design does that mean this is good for the guests.  (And, oh yes, I had a hard time tearing the packets open — another usability problem.)

And for those of you with Web sites instead of hotel chains, look around your Web site with the perspective of a new visitor and make sure you really have made it easy:

•    for a visitor to be motivated to stay on your site rather than clicking away
•    to find things on your site — especially how to buy your book


Phyllis Zimbler Miller’s company launched to help people promote their brand, book or business online.